If you have been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, we know you’re wondering if there is a cure. Unfortunately, not at this time, but 70% of patients with this disease respond well to medication and go into remission. For those who do not respond to medication, there are surgical options available. Continue reading to learn how to reduce the inflammation from ulcerative colitis.
What Causes Ulcerative Colitis?
Ulcerative colitis, or UC, is an inflammation in the large intestine usually starting in the rectum and spreading to the entire colon. Many doctors and researchers believe it is due to an overactive immune response. Our immune system is supposed to protect us from germs and other dangerous substances, but sometimes it attacks our own body and causes inflammation and tissue damage.
UC is not a common disease. It causes irritation and ulcers in the large intestine, and is part of a group of conditions called inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD.
Unpleasant Symptoms of UC
UC usually first attacks patients between the ages of 15 and 30. When ulcerative colitis is involved in a flare up, diarrhea with blood, fever, cramping, and urgency to go are common symptoms although every patient is different. During a flare up the disease is considered active. During remission there may be no symptoms at all. The goal of KU Wichita Gastroenterology treatment is to have the patient remain in remission as long as possible.
Multiple Treatment Therapies for Ulcerative Colitis
Doctors usually employ a combination of treatments to keep UC in remission.
The most common medication used for UC are anti-inflammatory drugs both orally and topically to reduce inflammation. They are used to suppress the inflammation and extend the length of remission to give tissues time to heal.
Two additional medications can be used:
- Immunosuppressive medications to slow down the immune system and stop the immune response
- Biologics also target the immune system but attack certain immune system proteins
There are obvious risks and benefits to all combination therapies. On one hand they can increase the effectiveness of the drugs, but on the negative side they can introduce other side effects and toxicity.
Diet and Nutrition
Diet and nutrition is another effective way to maintain remission. Soft bland foods are better than spicy foods. Maintain a soothing diet to help replace the nutrients, minerals and other essential carbs, fat, protein, and water lost from diarrhea.
KU Wichita Gastroenterology will recommend a customized diet plan for your UC.
For some patients none of the above therapies work to eliminate the flare ups and their frequency. For those patients, surgery may be the only option.
Depending on several factors, your surgeon may recommend removing your entire colon and rectum called a colectomy. This entails a bag on the outside of the body for waste collection.
Another newer option is to remove only part of the colon, keeping some bowel integrity and eliminating the need for a waste bag outside the body.
Ulcerative colitis is an unpleasant disease and it may take trial and error to find the right combination of therapies, and although there is no cure for UC at this time, there are ways to manage the flare ups and reduce their frequency.